Volume 4 Number 8 …………………….. August 1934
We have been denied Second Class Mailing Rights by the U.S. Government for refusing to turn over the names and addresses of our subscribers to the U.S. Postal Authorities.
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Class Struggle Official Organ of the Communist League of Struggle
(Adhering to the Internationalist Communists)
133 Second Avenue, Room 24, New York City
Editor: ALBERT WEISBORD Associate Editor: VERA BUCH
The events in Austria are a mighty danger signal that we are on the eve of a new world war even more disastrous than the old. The Italian troops are mobilized on the Austrian frontier. Jugo- Slavia has ordered a counter-mobilization. Within Austria a military fascist dictatorship has just been established. All the large powers are feverishly arming themselves. Germany, Great Britain, France, Japan, the United States, are all preparing a new gigantic blood bath for the people. The desperate capitalist class knows it is doomed but hopes that through war, it can save its power and property.
The Communist League of Struggle calls upon all the labor organizations to get together into a united front to fight fascism and imperialist war. Let us give the capitalists blow for blow. We must not wait for the war to break out. Then it will be too late. Now is the time to organize a one day general strike demonstration throughout the nation to show labor will not tolerate a new world war. Only through most powerful united fronts, only through street demonstrations and general strikes through preparations for turning the imperialist war into civil war can the working class hope to prevent the new terrible holocaust of war that is about to come over us. There is not time to lose.
FORWARD TO THE UNITED FRONT AGAINST IMPERIALIST WAR AND FASCISM—FORWARD TO STREET DEMONSTRATIONS AND GENERAL STRIKES—FORWARD TO THE PREPARATIONS TO TURN IMPERIALIST WAR INTO THE WAR FOR THE WORKERS AGAINST THE BOSSES—LONG LIVE THE WORKERS SOVIET REPUBLIC OF THE UNITED STATES
At this present moment, when the working class throughout the entire country is rising up and revolting against the rotten miserable conditions which have become sharper due to the failure of the N.R.A. will come an even sharper situation which will be used more openly than ever before; it will become one of the main weapons that the ruling class will use. Great waves of lynch terror and persecution of the Negro masses will become more and more general. This has already manifested itself in the South and especially in Alabama. Firing of the Negro workers and their replacement by white, lowering of the standard of living, driving the Negro workers into worse misery and poverty, these things are on the order of day.
In Paterson the comrades of the Communist League of Struggle have recognized this very important task and have already begun work. I must stop here and tell you something about myself, before telling you about the organization and its tremendous opportunity to grow in Paterson.
I joined the working class movement seven years ago, not because there was a depression and I was unemployed and wanted a job, but because I had tolerated this brutal system long enough and seeing that it was weakening I was ready to destroy it. I was very active while in New York as a member of the Communist Party, but due to my bad health I was compelled to leave and come to Paterson, N.J. My main work there was confined to the textile industry where the Negro was not permitted to work.
Meantime, I succeeded in drawing around me one or two Negro workers, but they did not remain long, for there was no activity. Time after time Negroes would come and go. It seemed to be impossible to keep any Negroes at all in the movement here. We spoke with them about the lynching in the South and all the rest of the Negro problems, and they were also assigned to concentration work to shops where Negroes were not permitted to work. Now comrades, it is all right to speak about the brutal conditions the Negroes are living under, but what really counts is the action and fight that we put up against these conditions, and here is where the revolt came. The moment I demanded that in order to keep the Negro in the Communist Party it was necessary to do Negro work, organizing the Negroes on the basis of their daily demands, this was completely ignored. They were satisfied with using revolutionary phrases and would not put their hands on this work. Then I realized that it was impossible for me to remain in the party, so I got out and joined the Communist League of Struggle. Revolutionary theory with bourgeois tactics will not be able to win over the Negro masses. Now I must go back and tell about the organization that we are building in Paterson, the Negro Chamber of Labor.
If it is true that the theory of Lenin is that the working class movement cannot be victorious if it fails to win over the most exploited cases of workers, then fellow workers, we cannot call ourselves Leninists if we fail to carry out this task. In America the Negroes are the most exploited; they represent labor, and if this is so, then we must realize that no working class movement in America can be successful without the support of the Negro workers. No one can fight effectively and sincerely in the struggle against the bourgeois system unless he is willing to fight for the rights of the Negroes and it will be the job of the Negro Chamber of Labor to bring together all the Negroes under one banner and prepare them for the final struggle when all the workers together, black and white, will rise up and put an end to this brutal system. The Negro Chamber of Labor will not discriminate against any white worker. Any such white worker who is sincere in the struggle for the Negro will find his way into the N.C.L.—Frank Griffin, Secretary N.C.L. Paterson
A strike wave is tearing through the country, the second since the inauguration of Roosevelt. The number of strikers and the mass of strikers in 1933 were the greatest in ten years, but already, according to the figures of the U.S. Department of Labor, the first five months of 1934 are far ahead of any similar period last year and big increases have taken place in June and July. Further, it is not merely in quantity that the new strike wave differs from the preceding one, what is more important, it is on a higher plane.
The strike wave of 1933 occurred in what might be called “the honeymoon” period of the Roosevelt regime. All though talk of the “New Deal”, “Forgotten Man”, “New Social Order”, “End of the Crisis”, “Magna Charter of Labor”, etc., had created wide-spread illusions among the workers. The temporary feverish speculation in industry that had put a few men to work, the placing of four million men on the C.W.A. jobs, seemed evidence of a new situation.
The keystone of the arch of returning prosperity was the N.R.A. The N.R.A. did three basic things: First it froze the wages at the lowest point. Second, it froze prices at the highest point and sent the cost of living rising sky high. Third, it instituted a system of compulsory arbitration through the formulation of labor codes, etc. This was Roosevelt’s attempt at “organized capitalism” and it meant for the workers, at least, the end of an era, an era that had begun with rugged but had turned into ragged individualism. Instead of the criminal irresponsibility and anarchy of the crisis, it seemed to many of the workers that a new philosophy was being adopted, that now there would be some degree of responsibility and order and the workingmen would have the security of knowing where to turn in order to live.
The first upturn of business in America found the workers recovering a little from the demoralization of the four years of the crisis and beginning to fight for their own. Nevertheless, the big strike wave took place infested with illusions to a very considerable extent, that Labor would come into its own through the NRA. These illusions were deliberately fostered by the misleaders within the labor and revolutionary movements. To fight FOR a code, to fight FOR their legitimate place within the scheme of the NRA, in the beginning this seemed to be the basic task of the proletariat.
The present strike wave of 1934, however, is entirely different. The workers are not striking because they have illusions, but because they are disillusioned. They are not striking for the NRA but against the government. The tone of the strikers is bitter, their patience has become exhausted.
The full effects of the NRA have begun to be appreciated. This year sees industry dropping down as before, while the rise in living costs has remained as high as ever. The termination of the CWA work has thrown into the streets more millions of unemployed. And what is even more significant, the future appears to be as black as the present or the past few years.
In spite of all the ballyhoo the workers have been able to see that the chiseling employers have done about as they wished. The stringent provisions of the codes were for the workers, the employers were let alone. Even when the workers unanimously showed their eagerness to organize, as in the Ford or Weirton cases, the captive mines, the auto, steel and other industries, their organization was forestalled and they were abandoned.
The new strike wave shows that the American workers are no longer in the period of “honeymoon” with Roosevelt but in the period of “divorce". The strikes have been characterized by the aggressiveness with which the workers stand their ground and resist the efforts of the police and thugs to scatter them. The mass of unorganized workers show the most remarkable solidarity. The unemployed, as in Toledo, enter the picket lines and take on the most dangerous tasks in the strike action. The strikes quickly take on the threat of general strike, more and more political in character.
All strikes, in one degree or another, have a political character. If you shake the power of the employers you must shake, if only indirectly, the power of the agents of the employers. Today these strikes have a far greater political emphasis. Now the struggle is not only against an employer or set of employers but often against the codes, which are the acts of the Federal Government itself. The workers are no longer satisfied with section 7a of the NRA but want direct contracts with the employers and ignore the legislation of the government. Furthermore in all of these strikes there have been brought into play the soldiers of the National Guard and the fight has been, perforce, against the armed forces of the State as well. Again, recent strikes have been marked by a degree of violence which can only mean that the authority of law and order is at an end. And finally, as the local industrial strikes tend to become general strikes, the whole power of the local governmental apparatus is paralyzed and the events begin to take on the aspect of civil war.
The whole situation is a fine demonstration of the fact that America is becoming Europeanized politically. The day when every capitalist boasted that he was once a worker and every worker hoped to become a capitalist has definitely come to an end. The classes are beginning to line up in open formation. The threats of general strikes in San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, and Toledo, are but the beginning of this alignment of class against class. When unemployed workers are willing to get their skulls cracked on the picket line of a union, it marks the end of the separation of employed from unemployed and the realization that the fight of one section of the workers must involve the whole working class.
The general strikes that are taking place are splendid realizations of the forecasts of the Communist League of Struggle which alone raised the slogan of General Strike over a year ago and has kept it going ever since. The Cannon group said that the workers were not ready for such a slogan, that it was fantastic and unrealistic, insane, etc. But life has mocked them as it has done with the Communist centrist groups, generally.
The fight in San Francisco started with the strike of the longshoremen for the right of union control over the hiring-halls. they were willing to arbitrate hours, wages, and working conditions, but not this question of control over hiring-halls. Ordinarily, where an A.F.L. leadership wants to “arbitrate” hours, and wages, and material conditions of the workers, we should be wary. The leadership is too often ready and willing to sacrifice the interests of the union members so long as dues come in regularly to the bureaucracy. But such a conclusion would be quite erroneous in this case. Here the men are showing that they understand the question of control over the hiring-halls is a matter of the recognition of the union, or factually, the right of the workers to organize at all. The American workers are getting out of the stage where individual action appeals to them. They want to organize their class and to be part of a mass organization. They are showing that they understand not only how to fight for their present needs, but how to link up the present with the future and the knowledge of the uncertainty of the future and the difference of approaching battles makes them fight all the more to keep their only weapon, the union, which protects them. Thus the strikes of today are on a higher plane then the strikes preceding them.
It is precisely over this question of recognition of the union that the employers fight most bitterly. For the American bourgeoisie stands on the shoulders of the capitalists of Europe. They have learned that it is one thing to permit unions of craftsmen, skilled workers, in an era when capitalism is on the upgrade. It is another thing to permit industrial or mass unions of unskilled workers in a period when capitalism is on the down grade, and when the experiences of Europe show that the unions are the veritable training grounds for revolutionists, for Communists who know that the sole way out for labor is the general strike leading to workers control over production and the smashing of capitalism itself.
Today is not the period of reform and gradualism. That type of movement is about burned out. The workers of America are beginning to appreciate this and to learn the lesson from the rise of fascism in Europe. Hence the aggressiveness and militancy of the struggles. Hence the rapid extension of the strikes and the solidarity displayed. It is not only the employers but the workers as well who know that the officials of the AFL will not be able to control them. It is this that the employers fear, and that will rapidly move them to fascism.
The San Francisco general strike well illustrated the technique of the employers and their agents in the ranks of labor. On the part of the bosses there was a complete and unanimous solidarity in action and mobilization of all forces. The soldiers, police, special deputies and armed guards were mobilized. The Archbishop of something or other made speeches on the sinfulness of the general strike. Hand in hand with the soldiers went the “peace committee” of the government headed by General Johnson whose first act was to thunder that the general strike is insurrection and only when the strikers went back to work would any attempt be made to settle the strike. The press kept up a most despicable clamor calling for the blood of the union men and declaring that shooting and hanging were too good for the militants of the strike.
The vile press screamed, General Johnson thundered and Green squeaked after him that “The General Strike is illegal". These gentlemen, however, never declared that the general lockout of the bosses which has gone on now for five years is illegal. They never declared that the conspiracy of the few bosses to throw out the many workers from their jobs was an insurrection against democracy.
Hand in hand with the governmental forces went the private mobilization of the employers. Gangs of vigilantes roamed the streets raiding the headquarters of the Communists, the I.W.W. and other organizations of militants, breaking into the relief kitchens of the strikers, threatening their leaders, making wholesale attacks upon the class conscious workers, and, with the help of the government, staging a regular reign of terror. Hundreds of foreign born workers and others were arrested and held for deportation and trial.
One of the newspapers commented on the fact that it seemed that fascism in America had a very fertile soil from the ease with which the vigilantes were organized to break up militant workers organizations.
On the other hand, contrast this scene with the actions of the leaders of the workers. The AFL misleaders do their very best to destroy the strike movement. Pushed by the pressure of the rank and file, they finally agree to enter the movement as leaders. The original strike committee gives way to a “strategy committee". Those fakers and capitalist agents whose whole lives are concerned with the breaking of strikes suddenly come out in the pose as “experts” on “strike strategy". That the AFL bureaucrats headed the strike only to behead it soon became crystal clear.
Mr. Ryan of the Longshoremen’s International Union rushed into print with the statement that the coast men were fools and that his men in New York City would have nothing to do with them. Mr. Green followed quickly with a statement that so far as the AFL was concerned, the strike was unauthorized and would have to be a failure, as it was against the government and so against the will of all.
Instead of closing down the city tight, the “strategy committee” began to make all kinds of concessions. Street cars were run, trucks operated to this and that place, telephones and telegraphs were running full time, trains came in on schedule, etc. You cannot play around with a general strike. To be genuinely successful the general strike must move to the general lockout. The workers going out of the factories and work places must make their exodus the demonstration and the thrust that they will return to take over control themselves. In this basic respect Daniel De Leon was correct. The General Strike, by itself, is no panacea. It is only a transition point in the struggle.
If the struggle is called, then, every effort must be made to starve the ruling classes into submission and at the same time to feed the workers. It was up to the unions to register all the workers in the cities, including the unemployed and the families of the working class, to have designated certain places where those with union cards could go for food and the necessities of life. In this way the unions could have made the whole district completely union and have caused no distress to the strikers and families of the workers.
Instead of that, the union officials allowed only a few stores and restaurants in the center of the city to open and there the worker found that he had to stand in line with the bourgeois clerk and boss and take his chance amid the cursing, swirling crowd for the “coffee and”, if there was any. Thus, instead of separating the workers from the bosses and operating as though there were a war between them, which there was, the “strategy committee” deliberately sabotaged and wrecked the strike machinery. Even Mr. Bridges, allegedly Communist, was reported as saying that he thought the strike had cracked, that he would like to take the ship for Australia, etc.
Instead of organizing labor front defense fighters, the union officials allowed the vigilantes to roam around the city at will. Indeed, it is reported that certain officials of the unions actually aided and abetted these gangs of thugs.
Finally, in a most shameful and brazen way, the officials broke the general strike after four days by calling off the workers. There had been no scabbing nor breaking of ranks in spite of the treachery of the leaders. This call to return to work showed the poltroon misleaders of the AFL in their true colors. However, if these traitors thought that by leading the general strike they could so discredit it as to prevent the workers from taking to this weapon, they were sadly mistaken. From all reports, Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis still soothe with discontent. The working class of America knows that it is not the general strike that failed but the AFL misleaders that failed the general strike. It is not the workers who have been beaten, but the illusions of the workers that have been eradicated.
Analogous to San Francisco is Minneapolis. Here the truck drivers found themselves led by the Communist League of America. The first strike had been led in May. The strike had been solid and the workers displayed excellent militancy. A vote for a general strike had been cast, when the union officials, headed by the Communist League of America ordered the man back to work. The condition of the settlement was so shameful as to cause even the AFL unions to cry out. The Journal of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, the “Advance”, for example, wrote that the settlement was “painfully weak". It provided for no change of hours, wages and conditions, for the men to return to work immediately with no recognition of the union except through articles 7a of the NRA and a compulsory arbitration board to be composed of two men from the government, two employers, and two officials of the union.
The Communists League of America (Cannon group) immediately proclaimed through its paper, the “Militant” that this was a great victory. Cannon was even called upon to write a pamphlet on “strike strategy”, although the American League had prepared so well for the strike that Cannon, even by taking an airplane, arrived in Minneapolis after the strike was all settled. In spite of this “victory” the workers did not believe that this settlement so hastily made was a good one and compelled the leaders to call another strike.
The strike is on but up to now there has been no call for a general strike although scores of strikers have been shot, one murdered, and martial law has been declared. Even if a general strike should be called, it will now come after the debacle and treacherous sell-out in San Francisco. The American League has done its share to separate Minneapolis from San Francisco. All this, of course, will only make the employers more adamant than ever. If it comes to a fight to a finis in Minneapolis it will now be under worse conditions than before with the bosses better prepared and the workers weaker.
Latest reports show that the Cannon leadership has now reversed itself, whereas, before, it was willing to arbitrate wages, hours, and working conditions, but not the question of the union, now it talks about leaving the recognition question till later but the wages question is the one that must be settled. And in all this time the Cannon leadership finds itself quite at home with the AFL local bureaucracy. Why is there no general strike called? Why is there no exposure of the AFL local misleaders? Are the Canonites acting like the Lovestonites in New York City in the needle trades where they only cover up the treachery of the AFL misleaders before the workers?
The Cannon leaders of the union have actually issued the slogan: Minneapolis must be 100% union town and all the workers must join their craft or trade union. But do the Cannonites give the reasons why workers do not join the AFL? Do they expose the thousand and one betrayals, the high dues and racketeering, the indifference of the officialdom etc., characteristic of the AFL officials? Or do they point out that Minneapolis can be 100% union only through the general strike, THE GENERAL STRIKE WHICH THEY ARE SABOTAGING? The Cannonites have become cheap recruiting agents for the fakers, hoping in this way to ingratiate themselves into the AFL.
Cannon and Shachtman have been arrested. We are quite willing to aid in their defense, but we feel we ought to ask: Why did those “heroes” stay in an exposed hotel? Could they not have stayed at a workers’s house in a workers’ neighborhood? We have heard rumors that they will be released if they leave town. Should Cannon And Shachtran accept this, it will be a real disgrace to the Left Opposition which they represent.
The result of the fiascos will be thoroughly to discredit the AFL in the eyes of the masses. No doubt tens of thousands will leave the ranks of the AFL on the West Coast. All this fermentation among the workers will give splendid chances to the left wing in the labor movement. The workers know that never can nor will the AFL organize the mass of unskilled workers. The form of organization, the methods of action of the AFL have all become exposed as shoddy, no longer fit for the workers. It has become clear that only the Communists, only the genuine revolutionists can organize the unorganized and lead them into battle. THE ORGANIZATION OF THE UNORGANIZED LEADS DIRECTLY TO THE STRUGGLE FOR POWER IN THIS COUNTRY AND ONE JOB WILL NOT AND CANNOT BE DONE WITHOUT THE OTHER. This is how reform and revolution are intertwined in the 20th century in our country.
But the left wing is utterly incapable of taking advantage of the situation. Take the Communist Party. The raids of the vigilantes showed that the party was wholly unprepared for the attacks. There were no labor defense fighters. There was no united front. Nor could there be. The Communist Party which has led the way in hooliganism, in breaking up workers’ meetings and raiding headquarters, how could it get a united front for its defense? Isolated from the labor movement, receiving the hatred of all advanced workers for its disruptive hooligan tactics, the Communist party, filtered through and through with careerists and bureaucrats of all sorts, found itself completely unprepared even to anticipate the raids, no less than to fight them off. The Communist Party here showed itself worse than other labor organizations who in the past knew enough to protect itself.
Take the Socialist Party. It has recently adopted a new “Declaration of principles". But does anyone think that the betrayal at San Francisco will be denounced within the Socialist Party? Does anyone imagine that the AFL socialists will organize themselves to fight Bill Green and Co., for their strike breaking? Will the Socialists go out to organize the unorganized themselves? Not a bit. Just pompous phrases from university professors who will tell the workers what to do.
Take the Communist League of America. We have already exposed their record in Minneapolis (which we hope they will improve). Can they take advantage of the situation? Up to very recently they were against mass work. Now they work hand in glove with the AFL bureaucracy, They do not believe there are signs of fascism. They do not believe the workers are ready to listen to talk of a general strike. They sit in their office waiting for the “historic process” to unfold so that they can write about it. They thought that the crisis would be over somewhere around 1932. They said that the workers would fight only when the crisis would come to an end. How can these people understand or lead any workers battle in our era? They are helpless and without a rudder in the coming period of stress and storm.
The general strike wave is only the forerunner of bigger events. America is moving with seven league boots on the road of the class struggle.
(1) The events in Austria, after the events in Germany, place definitely a tombstone over “classic” reformism. Henceforth, only the obtuse leaders of English and American Trade Unionism their French imitator, Jouhaux, Vandervelde, the president of the Second International, and similar specimen of the political ichthyosauri will venture to speak openly of a perspective of peaceful development and democratic reforms, etc….The majority of reformists now deliberately employ new colors. Reformism gives place to the innumerable shades of Centrism, which now, in the majority of countries, dominate the workers’ movement. Thus an absolutely new situation presents itself, in a way unprecedented, for work in the spirit of revolutionary Marxism (Bolshevism). The new International cannot form itself in any other way than that of struggle against centrism. Ideological intransigence and flexible united front policy are, in these conditions, two weapons for attaining one and the same end.
(2) Above all a clear picture must be gained of the features most characteristic of present day countries. It is not easy; firstly because centrism in view of its organic indefiniteness is difficult to define precisely, being characterized much more by what it lacks than by what it holds: Secondly, never has centrism reflected so many of the colors of the rainbow as now, for never before have the ranks of the workers been in such a ferment as now. The political fermentation from the very depth of its origin signifies a re-grouping, a displacement between the poles, reformism and Marxism that is a passage through the many stages of centrism.
(3) Difficult as a general determination of centrism, which has always, necessarily, the character of a combination due to crisis- may be, one can and one must separate, all the same, the principle traits and peculiarities of the centrist groupings which are consequent upon the collapse of the 2nd and 3rd Internationals.
(a) In the sphere of theory centrism is impressive and eclectic. It shelters itself as much as possible from obligations in the matter of theory and is inclined (in words) to give preference to “revolutionary practice” over theory; without understanding that only Marxist theory can give to practice a revolutionary direction.
(b) In the sphere of idealogy, centrism leads a parasitic existence: against revolutionary Marxists it repeats the old Menshevik arguments (those of Martev, Axelrod, and Plekanhov) generally without re-valuing them: On the other hand it borrows its principle arguments against the “rights” from the Marxists, that is, above all, from the Bolshevik-Leninists, suppressing, however, the point of the criticisms, subtracting the practical conclusions and so robbing criticism of all who object.
(c) Centrism voluntarily proclaims its hostility to reformism but it is silent about centrism more than that it thinks the very idea of centrism “obscure”, “arbitrary”, etc.: In other words centrism dislikes being called centrism.
(d) The centrist, never sure of his position and his methods, regards with detestation the revolutionary principle: State that which is; it inclines to substituting, in the place of political principles, personal combinations and petty organizational diplomacy.
(e) The centrist always remains in spiritual dependence upon right groupings, is induced to court the goodwill of the most moderate, to keep silent about their opportunist faults and to regild their actions before the workers.
(f) It is not a rare thing for the centrist to hide his own hybrid nature by calling out about the dangers of “sectarianism"; but by sectarianism he understands not a passivity of abstract propaganda (as is the way with the Bordiguists) but the anxious care for principle, the clarity of position, political consistency, definiteness in organization.
(g) Between the opportunist and the Marxist the contrist occupies a position which is, up to a certain point, analogous to that occupied by the petty bourgeoisie between the capitalist and the proletariat; he courts the approbation of the first and despises the second.
(h) On the international field the centrist distinguishes himself, if not his blindness, at least by his shortsightedness. He does not understand that one cannot build in the present period a national revolutionary party save as part of an international party; in the choice of his international allies the centrist is even less particular then in his own country.
(i) The centrist sees as outstanding in the policy of the C.I. only the “ultra left” deviation; the adventurism, the putchism, and is in absolute ignorance of the opportunist right zig-zags. (Kuomintang, Anglo-Russian Committee, pacifist foreign policy, anti fascist bloc, etc.).
(j) The centrist swears by the policy of the united front as he empties it of its revolutionary content and transforms it from a tactical method into a highest principle.
(k) The centrist gladly appeals to pathetic moral lessons to hide his ideological emptiness, but he does not understand that revolutionary crisis can rest only on the ground of revolutionary doctrine and revolutionary policy.
(l) Under the pressure of circumstances the eclectic contrist is capable of accepting even extreme conclusions but only to repudiate them later indeed. Recognizing the dictatorship of the proletariat he leaves plenty of room for opportunist interpreters: Proclaiming the need for a forth international he works for the creation of the two-and-a-half international.
(4) The worst model of centrism is the German group “New Beginning". Reporting superficially the Marxist criticism of referendism, it reaches the conclusion that all the proletarian calamities arise from splits and that salvation lies in the maintenance of the unity of the Social Democratic Party. The organization discipline of Wels and Co. is placed by those gentlemen above the historic interests of the proletariat. And since Wels and Co. submit the party to the discipline of the bourgeoisie, the group “Now Beginning” disguising itself with a left criticism stolen from the Marxists, is in fact, a mischievous agent of the bourgeois order, although an agent of the second degree.
(5) An attempt to create a common testing ground of eclectic centrists is constituted by what is called the London Bureau (now of Amsterdam) under a banner which attempts to unite these contrist groups, both right and left, which have not dared to choose definitely a direction and a banner. In this case as in the others the centrist attempts to lead the movement diagonally. The diverse elements which make up the bloc tend in opposite directions: The Norwegian Labor Party (N.A.P.) goes discreetly towards the Second International, the Independent Labor party of England goes in part towards the Third and in part towards the Fourth International, the Dutch Independent Socialist Party (O.S.P.) and the German Workers Party (S.A.P.) move vacillating towards the Fourth International. Exploiting and conserving the ideological uncertainty of all its participants and seeking to oppose the work for the creation of the new International, the London Bureau plays a reactionary role. The collapse of this grouping is absolutely certain.
(6) The definition of the C.I.’s policy as bureaucratic centrism even to this day retains all its force. Only bureaucratic centrism is capable of continuous jumps from opportunist treason to ultra-left adventurism; only the powerful soviet bureaucracy could for ten years give an assured place to this melancholy policy of zig-zag Bureaucratic centrism-differing from the centrist grouping which spring from the social-Democracy, is a product of the degeneracy of Bolshevism, retaining in the form of caricature, many of its features; still followed by an important number of revolutionary workers; controlling material means and extraordinary technique and in its political influence this variety of centrism is now the most inert, the most disorganizing, and the most pernicious. It is plain to all the world that the political collapse of the C.I. signifies the extreme decomposition of bureaucratic centrism Our task in this sphere is the spring of the best of its elements, for the cause of the proletarian revolution. Side by side with the untiring principled criticism, the main instruments which will permit use by us the account of workers who still stand under the banner of the C.I. is the pushing forward of our ideas amongst the large masses, who in their overwhelming majority still hold apart from the influence of the C.I.
(7) It is just now-when reformism is constrained to disavow itself, in cleaning itself into centrism or in taking on that appearance-that some groupings of left centrism, on the contrary, halt in their development, and even go back upon it. It seems to them that the reformists have already understood almost everything, that it is only necessary not to frighten them with extraordinary demands, criticism or extreme phraseology, and thus one will be able with a single blow to create a “revolutionary” mass party.
In fact, reformism’s renunciation of itself, made a necessity by the events, with a clean program, without a revolutionary tactic, is only capable of lulling to sleep the advanced workers, by suggesting to them the idea that the revolutionary re-birth of the party is nearly realized.
(8) For the revolutionary Marxist the struggle against refomism now changes itself almost completely into struggle against centrism. The mere empty opposing of legal struggle to illegal struggle, of peaceful means to violent, of democracy to dictatorship in the majority of cases now passes; for the frightened reformists, who must now disavow themselves, are ready to accept the most “revolutionary” of formulas, if only they are not obliged today to break with the hybridity, irresolution, “passivity” which are native to them. That is why the struggle against the hidden or masked opportunists must principally transport itself into the sphere of the practical conclusions from revolutionary promises.
Before taking seriously the fine words of the centrists concerning the “dictatorship of the proletariat” it is necessary to exact from them a serious defense against Fascism, a complete break with the bourgeoisie, the systematic upbuilding of a workers’ militia, its training in a will to fight, the creation of inter- party defense contres, of anti-fascist main contres, the expulsion from their ranks of parliamentarians, trade-unionists, and other traitors, of bourgeois lackeys, careerists, etc… It is precisely on this plane that one must now deliver the principle blows at centrism. For carrying out this work with success it is essential to have one’s hands free, that means not only maintaining complete organic independence, but also critical intransigence concerning the most “left” of the ramifications of centrism.
(9) The Bolshevik-Leninists of all countries must render to themselves the clearest accounts of the circumstances of the new stage of the struggle for the 4th International. The events in Austria and France give a powerful impulsion to the re-grouping in the revolutionary direction of the forces of the proletariat; but precisely the general substitution of centrism for reformism offers the development of a strong powerful attraction for the centrist groupings of the left (S.A.P., O.S.P.) which even yesterday made ready to unite themselves to the Bolshevik-Leninists.
This dialectical process, viewed superficially, may give birth to the impression that the Marxist wing would from its beginning isolate itself from the masses. Profound error! The oscillations of centrism to right and left proceed from its very nature. We shall yet meet on our way some dozens or some hundreds of such episodes. To fear to go forward merely because the route is strewn with obstacles or because all our fellow marchers will not go the whole way with us would be most miserable cowardice.
When the new opportunist oscillations of our centrist allies find themselves to be conjunctural or defective (in fact they will have to be one or the other) the general conditions for the formation of the Fourth International upon the basis of true Bolshevism will have grown most favorable. The chase by the centrists of the “extreme right” of those who are plainly left, by those of the left, after those of the middle, those of the middle after those of the right, --a pursuit which resembled the efforts of a man to catch his own shadow--cannot create a permanent mass organization: The sad experience of the Independent Party of Germany (U.S.P.) even yet retains all its force. Under the pressure of events, with the help of our criticism and our slogans, the advanced workers will pass over the hesitations of the most left of the centrist leaders and, if it must be, ever the leaders themselves.
On the road towards the new International the proletarian advance-guard will find no replies other than those already elaborated by the Bolshevik-Leninists on the basis of the international experience of ten years of uninterrupted theoretical and practical struggle.
(10) Our politics influence in the last year is considerably strengthened. We can, with relatively little delay, extend and develop our success by observing the following conditions:
(a) Do not try to deceive the process of history; do not play seek, but state what is.
(b) Render yourself a theoretical balance sheet of all changes in the general situation, which in the present period often take the character of sharp turns.
(c) Lend an attentive ear to what the masses are saying, without prejudice without illusions, without deceiving oneself; for upon the basis of a correct appreciation of the relation of forces within the proletariat avoiding as much for opportunism as for adventurism, leading the masses forward but not holding them back.
(d) Each day and each hour say clearly to yourself what must be the next practical step; untiringly prepare this step, and upon the basis of living experience explain to the workers the principle difference from Bolshevism of all the other parties and tendencies.
(e) Do not confuse the actual tasks of the united front with the fundamental historic task: The creation of new parties and of the new International.
(f) For a practical demand do not disdain even the weakest of allies.
(g) Follow with a critical eye the most “left” ally as if a possible adversary.
(h) Conduct yourself with the greatest attentiveness towards these groupings which actually tend towards us; lend a patient and attentive ear to their criticisms, to their doubts, to their hesitations; help their evolution towards Marxism; do not fear their caprices, their threats, their ultimatums (the centrists are always capricious and susceptible); do not make any concession of principle to them.
(i) Yet once again: Do not fear to state that which is.
February 22, 1934
De Fakkel’s criticism of my article (Centrism and the Fourth International) is highly characteristic of the make-up of the leadership of the O.S.P. as well as of left centrism in general. It therefore deserves to be analyzed.
Is it correct that the main tendency of the working class movement of the world consists in the transformation of reformism into centrism? “De Fakkel” disputes it. It believes that everywhere is to be observed simultaneously; the striving to orient the movement towards the right. It points thereby to the French Neo-Socialists, the Belgian Workers’ Party, the English Labor Party and the Dutch Social Democracy.The facts indicated by “De Fakkel” only confirm, when one knows how to interpret them in Marxian fashion—my assertion.
Why were the Neo-Socialists ejected from the old party? Because it was clothing itself with centrism. The right wing changes into a conservative, nationalistic clique that has nothing more to do with the working class movement. The Belgian example is also a case in point. “De Fakkel” reminds us of Vandervelde’s recent avowal of allegiance to the King. But there is nothing new in this. The plan of de Man is new. In substance as well as by its author’s admission the plan is but an attempt to obliterate the line of demarcation between reform and revolution. In this precisely consists the essence of centrism.
Monarchistic servility indicates only that we must distinguish between centrism and centrism. There are honest centrist moods of the masses and there are consciously lying centrist designs of old parliamentary cheats of the masses. But such designs have become necessary precisely because of the shift of the party base to the left. In essence the matter stands no differently also with the English Labor Party although in tempo and in phenomenal form it is quite different. The going over of the MacDonald clique to the reaction, on the one hand, the expulsion of the I.L.P. from the Labor Party on the other, are two very significant symptoms of the above mentioned processes.
In the coming period we will inevitably observe a new development of centrist currents in the Labor Party. That the German S.P. leadership with Wels, as well as the leaders of Austro- Marxism, now clothe their philistine prejudices in the language of “revolution”, is widely known. In countries with a backward political development the social-democratic apparatus can afford, in the face of threatening dangers—the growth of Fascism and simultaneously of internal centrist opposition- the attempt to hold its positions by clinging to the right, to the state, and by repressions against the left, against its own opposition. The formation of the C.S.P. in Holland was the first step in the open composition of the old Dutch social-democracy,. The development will proceed in this direction.
As a matter of practical policy in every country is naturally very important not only to keep track of the general tendency of development but also of the stages through which it passes. For Holland as well as for every other country it is of importance, however, to recognize in time the centrist disguise of former reformism so that reformism itself be combatted not by centrist but by Marxism methods.
Viewed historically reformism has lost completely its social hosts. Without reforms there is no reformism, without prosperous capitalism, no reform. The right reformist wing becomes_anti reformist in the sense that it helps the bourgeoisie directly or indirectly to smash the old conquests of the working class. It is false to consider the Neo-Socialists as a working class party. The split did not weaken the old French Socialist party. It strengthened it. Since, after the cleansing, the party enjoys greater confidence on the part of the workers. But it must adapt itself to this confidence, and the form of this adaptation is called centrism.
Left centrist groupings such as The O.S.P. are not conscious of this process of which they form a component part. Precisely because they feel their principled weakness and their inability to give the working class a clear answer they must divert the attention of workers from centrist sickness to reformist danger. In this they resemble old liberalism which always scared the workers with reaction in order to hold them back from the fight against liberalism itself. Therefore, for instance the declarations of the O.S.P. and S.A.P. to the Youth conference contain nothing or almost nothing on centrism. However, it is well known that precisely those parties that did not permit themselves in the past to be held back from a merciless fight against liberal vacillations, always proved to be the bravest fighters against reaction. The same holds true now. These revolutionists will fight reformism best who are absolutely independent of centrism and view it critically and intransigent.
The London Amsterdam Bureau is unable to fight against reformism since it is a mutual aid society for the vacillating and hesitant. “De Fakkel” says, “The aim of the Bureau is to win for the Fourth International as many adherents as possible.” The O.S.P. could have joined the Second International with the same justification. That we muss fight for the Fourth International wherever possible is clear. The task, however, means an irreconcilable struggle against the treacherous policy of Tranmeal and certainly not a brotherhood in arms with him. That they “criticize” Tranmeal meanwhile makes matters worse, since he is criticized only to the extent that the working agreement with him remains unbroken, that is, apparent criticism is made which only serves as a cover for the out and out revolutionary bloc. The gallant Shakespearian actor who was supposed to play the lion at the court feared to frighten the beautiful ladies and therefore roared as softly, as tenderly as a dove. Our highly respectable left centrists become very gruff to Bolshevik “sectarians"; to the Tranmeals they coo like doves.
“De Fakkel” acknowledges our characterization of the Comintern as that of bureaucratic centrism. This, however, is only lip service, since the whole working alliance with the Amsterdam bureau is nothing else but a wilted, sickly edition of the infamous Anglo-Russian Committee. There also were found British “lefts” of the type of Finn Moe, who were used as bait by the real leaders. In defending their brotherhood with Tranmael “De Fakkel” as well as the “New Front” repeats all the old arguments of Stalin and Bucharin (Masses”, “Masses”, and again “masses"!) but in a worse form if anything.
Thus, I cannot recognize the validity of a single argument which “Da Fakkel” brings against my article, by which, however, I do not want to say that there are no flaws in the article. Thus, for instance, one could point out correctly that the article does not reveal sufficiently the practical and organizational inadequacy of centrisim. The centrists like to speak of illegality, of conspirative, underground methods. As a rule, however, they do not take their own words seriously. They like to poke fun at bourgeois democracy; in practice however, they always show naive trust in it. For instance, when they call together an international conference, it is handled as though it were a matter of a picnic; and the result is a catastrophe with a toll of heavy human sacrifices. If the matter should be looked into a little closer it will invariably be found that such organizational slovenliness is connected with the ideological looseness of centrism. Woe to those who cannot learn from experience!
It is true that the organizational base for the Fourth International is as yet very narrow. In 1914, however, the basis for the Third International was even narrower. The work of building up did not consist, however, of growth before opportunist organizations of the type of the N.A.P., but on the contrary, of struggling for the liberation of the workers from the influence of such organizations. The real initiators of the Fourth International began with Marxist quality to turn out afterwards into mass quantity. The small but well hardened and sharply ground for splits, hewn and shapes heavy beams. We should begin with an ax of steel. Even here the means of production is decisive.
With regard to the O.S.P., as in all other causes, we draw a distinction between the centrism of the workers, which is only a transition stage for them, and the professional centrism of many leaders among whom there are also incurables. That we will meet with the majority of the O.S.P. and the O.S.P. workers on the road to the Fourth International—of this we are quite certain.
March 20, 1934
Besides its left Finn Moss who face the O.S.P. and the S.A.P. Traenmel has also his right Finn Moss, whose face is turned towards the King’s palace.
The executions of the leaders of the Storm Troops, especially Roehm, and the exponents of petty bourgeois national socialism, above all Gregor Stracner, coupled with the partial dissolution of the 2,000,000 Storm Troopers and their disarmament, show us clearly that the “Hitler Revolution” has entered into the second phase. In its first steps it used the petty bourgeois to cut down the proletariat. Now it is the petty bourgeois that is cut down. In each case Der Fuehrer had his way without great resistance.
By no means must we consider Fascism to be merely the naked terror of the Bourgeoisie. The working class was crushed by means of the mobilization of the small property holders and de-classed political elements in Germany who were duped and swayed by the “socialistic” phrases of the Fascists. Without understanding the program and demagogy of the Fascists by which they are able to mobilize and use for their dupes the petty bourgeoisie of the country, one cannot understand Fascism at all. The recent events have put an end to the “socialistic” utopian dreams of the petty bourgeoisie. It is another lesson for the workers that the lower middle classes, doomed and decadent, can lead nobody; they can become only the tool of the bourgeoisie unless they are the allies of the proletariat. Throughout all the events certain of the American press openly ventured the hope that perhaps now there would be a revolution in Germany. Vain wish. Does anyone believe that with the working class crushed, the petty bourgeoisie, the grocery man and student, will fight? It is now the turn of the little store-keeper to bemoan his part in attacking the working class, but outside of wailing and moanings, what else can one expect from a shop-keeper?
To appreciate the new situation in Germany one must understand the desperate position of German political economy and the fact that not in the slightest degree has this position been improved since the advent of the Hitler regime. It is true that there has been a temporary slight upturn of industrial life, but it has affected very few, and counter to that are the general economic contradictions which have become severely aggravated. In 1933 Germany was able to meet its debts only by the most stringent restrictions in imports so that there would be a new favorable balance of trade. However, if in the first five months of last year there was a favorable balance of trade of 263 million marks, in 1934 in the same period there is an adverse balance, that is a deficit that would have to be paid out of the small gold funds of the country, of 178 million marks. Here is an illustration of the paralyzing effects of the crisis and the Jewish boycott that has been established. More and more Germany has become isolated in world trade and is being choked to death.
In order to meet its bills, already Germany has allowed the gold drain to go far beyond the danger point. In March 1933 the gold coverage of the paper money of Germany was 23.7%. This had been maintained by the most drastic regulations and decrees in the economic history of Germany, comparable only to the decrees during the war blockade. What shall we say now that the gold coverage has dropped down to 2%? It is clear that only the terror of the government has stopped inflation in Germany and that more and more the German government is going into open bankruptcy.
Already Germany has declared that it cannot pay the interest on its private debts. The debt of Germany is about 12 billion marks, of which only 4 billion are internal and the rest foreign.
The interest alone is far more than the available cash on hand. And Germany cannot pay in goods as even the balance of trade now has become very unfavorable. How can Germany pay? If she does not pay, France and England and the other creditor countries have threatened drastic reprisals. Even the U.S. has sent a sharp note in regard to the payment of the private debts to the U.S. investors. There is only one way out, and that way spells war. It is for that reason that, in spite of imminent bankruptcy, Germany has increased her military budget from 674 million marks in 1933 to 1354 million marks in 1934. It is for this reason too that the imports have jumped up over the exports, for a good part of the imports is the laying in of war supplies, such as nickel, copper, etc.
Whether the government is preparing for war, whether it intends to introduce inflation, whether it can prevent the bankruptcy of the government itself, it is clear that it can only go forward by new attacks on the standards of the workers and little property owner. As the pressure of the crisis grows more and more frightful, Hitler and the large capitalists must break more and more with the discontented petty bourgeoisie “Nazis” who rallied to his banner in proportion as these dupes want to get out of the crisis by means of applying their “socialist” slogans. It should be kept in mind that the “little man” really believed that Germany was on the way to “Socialism” and it was this increasing gap between the “socialism” of the petty bourgeois and the “nationalism” of the industrialists and big exploiters that finally caused the break in National Socialism. By this time the small property holder has become disillusioned. But it is now too late.
The gap between the words and deeds of Hitler have been well illustrated by the events. The Nazi agricultural program called for “A system of land reform in accord without national requirements, passage of a law which shall provide for the expropriation without compensation of land for socially useful purposes, for the abolition of ground rent and for the prohibition of speculation in land values.” Does this program not sound very revolutionary and “socialistic"? “Expropriation without compensation”, “abolition of ground rent”, “prohibition of speculation”, what fine phrases! How foolish the reformist Socialists look by comparison. Even the Communists seem to be beaten.
The German Nazis had the same program as the French Jacobins. Here indeed is a fine example of how the liberalism of yesterday is the fascism of today!
But what really has happened? Of course there has been no expropriation without compensation. The law, which has actually been passed, permits the farmers to purchase a certain proportion of the land of the Junkers at a certain heavy price. In short the actual accomplishment is the same as that which the Czar provided in 1861. The Junkers will part with their worst lands at the highest possible evaluation made by the government under their control; only those Junkers will sell who are bankrupt and need the ready cash for their political aims thus profiting doubly by the legislation; the farmers will be sunk into debt from which they will never recover while the funds of the state enter into the pockets of their enemies. Very graciously the East Pomeranian Junkers have decided to “sacrifice” 20% of their land holdings to the farmers. “Better the concession from above than the seizure from below” was the opinion of the Czar, and these arrogant Junkers, historically stinking, repeat the slogan in typically German manner. By graciously controlling the land sales, the Junkers only bind the peasant still more firmly to the yoke of oppression than before.
The theory of the fascists was that the agricultural middle class was the backbone of the nation and every effort must be made to take it out of the commercialism of capitalism. For centuries now the idiotic peasantry has continued to dream of a system of private property without the contradictions of private property. And it is this idiocy that Fascism has raised into a system. Instead of removing the peasant from the commercialism of capitalism, Hitler has only chained him more securely to Landlord and Junker.
On September 29, 1933 there was passed the Hereditary Homestead Law which, in addition to defining the racial and social status of the farmer and the size of the farms subject to the new law, provided that the qualified owner cannot be dispossessed for debt, his crops cannot be seized for private debt, and the farm must pass undivided to a single heir according to local custom. Does it not all sound very “socialistic"? No dispossess for debt, no seizure of crop for private debt. How wonderful it all seemed, a veritable petty bourgeois utopia flavored with all the romance of feudalism, for did not the law declare that henceforth the farmer was to be considered as a nobleman?
The drab reality is far different. The farmer now is not allowed to divide his land or give it to anyone but a single heir. This has had a tremendous effect. The children must now all obey the father, the youngest to the oldest. It has reconstituted in the village the old patriarchal conditions calculated to discipline the peasantry and make them even more docile to the ends of the Junkers. The agricultural workers can not roam around without special passes. The rebellious youth can not seek work elsewhere. Around the village there has been forged new chains entrapping the masses of agrarians.
All the economic measures trumpeted forth as being for the benefit of the agrarian masses have been for the benefit of the Junkers and large estates only. Prohibitive tariffs have raised the prices of fats and oils 36%, butter 45% and margarine, which is used by the mass of poor people in Germany, 49%. This terrible increase in the cost of living has gone directly into the pockets of the large estate owners, for they alone could raise enough dairy products to profit from tariff. Out of the 5,000,000 farmers in Germany, 3,000,000 own from one to five acres of land entirely too small to go into dairying. Although the Nazis promised a reduction in interest to 3% nothing of the sort has been carried out. On the other hand, in a thousand ways the farmers have been delivered into the hands of the Junkers. Prices of foodstuffs are fixed by government interference and through the compulsory organization of the farmers, who are thus imprisoned in the hands of the Junkers.
Added to the sufferings of the peasantry due to the agrarian policy of the Nazis has been the scandal of the Osthilfe in which it has been uncovered that hundreds of millions of marks have been swindled from the government by the Junkers, headed by Hindenburg. The Osthilfe was organized to restore the status of the East Prussian and Pomeranian Junker and farmer severely hurt by the world war and its aftermath. Instead, through the most wanton corruption and graft, the money has been almost entirely pocketed by the former aristocracy. Hindenburg himself got away with a grant of land equal to 500,000 acres.
All these concessions was the method by which the Nazis wanted to accomplish the separation of the country masses from the city workers, for one thing, and for another thing, to bribe the Junkers into acquiescence to the program of the industrialists. Just as the Kaiser used to rule politically and yet for the benefit of industrial capitalists before the war, so do the industrialists want political rule, but are willing to give juicy morsels to the former rulers, the Junkers, whom they so badly need.
When the “first Hitler Revolution” occurred the mass of petty bourgeoisie in the city had the idea that there would take place immediate public control over all industries and compulsory cartelization. The right to fire employees would be curtailed. There would be a storm troop commissar over all industry etc. Competition would come to an end. Here was the “socialism” of the little fellow, viz., to control the big fellow and to smash the proletariat. The German idea, be it noted, was quite different from the idea of the little business man a generation ago. Then he dreamed of “busting the trusts". Today in Germany he wants to control the trust directly. Trusts, Yes, but run by and for the “mass” namely the little property holder whom the trust is threatening to ruin.
These illusions came to an end speedily enough. True, the unions were smashed, the wages lowered and unemployment insurance drastically cut down. In some places the right to fire was temporarily curtailed and for a short time there were “brown-shirt commissars". But in the end, all rebounded to the great benefit of the industrialists who are indeed the real masters of Germany and Hitler today. Due to subsidy, speculation and war preparations, industry did rise from 63 to 73 (1928 being 100), but no benefit accrued to the masses. Tax exemptions were given to owners who replaced obsolete machinery or repaired buildings or hired more workers. Sometimes the amount of the subsidy given the manufacturer for hiring a worker was far higher than the wages paid to this worker! And to cap the climax the Nazis established the same status in the factory as in the country. Every boss became a little Fuhrer, another Hitler, and the workers were to be the followers. No more commercial capitalist relations, but paternal relations were to be established in the factory. In this manner the class struggle was to give way to the industrial regimentation of the workers as robots for the bosses. The dream of the city professional technician, and scientist, that they would be called upon to supersede the capitalist, came rudely to an end.
Similarly, in the domain of trade, the Nazi program had read: “We demand the creation of a healthy middle class and its preservation, the immediate socialization of the large department stores and the renting of their facilities at minimum rates to small merchants and preferential treatment to small tradesmen and merchants in the awarding of national, state and municipal contracts.” To carry out this program the petty bourgeois store- keeper had demanded an attack on the Jewish merchant, the department store, the foreign chain store and the co-operative. In this way, and through preferential treatment, he hoped to stave off competition and ruin.
Alas for these dreams of the shop-keeper. True, the Jew was attacked, but the wealthy Jew always could escape. True, the brown-shirt ruffians invaded the little businesses and took control, but it was found that he was simply a racketeer who pocketed the account for himself and he was soon wiped out. True, there was some attack on the department and chain stores. But this was abandoned when it was pointed out that this would involve the investment of the bankers who could not be molested. At the same time there took place a severe let down in trade generally due to the impoverishment of the masses and the rise of prices and taxes. There was left only the attack on the cooperative.
The cooperatives, as Marxist organizations, had been smashed at the same time as the trade unions and political parties of the workers, and their property confiscated. it should be kept in mind that the number of cooperative stores in Germany totaled 50,000 and that even in the depression year of 1932 they did half a billion dollars worth of business or 5% of the total of all retail trade in the country. It was no wonder that the small shop keeper felt himself driven to the wall. They hailed with glee the seizure of the cooperatives. But soon something happened. As soon as the Nazis took over the stores they discovered what a wonderful nest egg it could be for themselves. Why should they dissolve the cooperatives and turn them over to the little store keeper when the Nazis could run the cooperatives themselves? Here was an immense business. It would mean jobs for at least 350,000 Nazis, graft in the millions, great power. And so the brown shirt murder pests took over the cooperatives for themselves and the little shop keeper paradise crashed to earth again.
Similarly have the illusions vanished as to unemployment. The official figures which show a big reduction in the number of unemployed are obviously padded. If unemployment has been reduced it has been by the following methods which it would be well worth while to study. First of all several hundred thousand had been forced to flee the country; others, numbering perhaps many more, have been too terrorized to apply for relief and have been stricken off the rolls. Tens of thousands have been arrested and placed in concentration camps. At the same time the attach was made against the Jews and they too were driven out of the jobs and professions which had been theirs. A terrific drive was started to oust women from all occupations under the slogan: Woman’s place is in the home.
Further, youth from 16 to 25 have been taken off jobs and sent into labor service camps and registered as employed. In parts of the country there has been established compulsory labor service. Public works have been established on an enormous scale (military roads for automobiles) and in this way the unemployed numbers lessened. finally the enrollment of 2,500,000 storm troopers and their feeding and clothing, also was used to lower the figures of the registered unemployed. It was by all of these means that Hitler “reduced” unemployment, but it has only worsened the real situation in Germany.
In other ways, too, the petty bourgeoisie has been reduced to mere puppets of the large capitalists. One of the first acts of Hitler was to wipe out the old state rights and centralize the government. The city heads are now appointed by the central government as in France. This, of course, removed a large number of cushy jobs from the old sections of the petty bourgeoisie and has turned them over to the Nazi forces as bribes to keep them in line. the struggle within the church has been of a similar nature. In every possible way, Hitler has tried to divide the layers of the masses and to upset one section in order to raise another and to prevent unity among them.
The conspiracy against Hitler which resulted in the executions of the storm troop leaders, their “socialistic” theoreticians like Strasser and their reactionary guide Von Schleicher, originated primarily over the question who should control the army. Fundamentally, of course, it was the question who shall rule, the franzied declassed lumpen elements backed up by the petty bourgeoisie, or the real rulers of Germany, the industrialists and big capitalists. The issue was never in doubt. In this respect the history of German Fascism only repeats the history of Italian Fascism. In the beginning, Mussolini, too had to use the petty bourgeoisie for his own purposes of pulling the chestnuts out of the fire for international capital. No sooner was he in power when he began to put down his former allies and show them their place. The process took two years and culminated in the Matteoti affair. It was by the murder of Matteoti that Mussolini finally showed that not the petty capitalist but big finance capital would rule Italy. It was in this way that the Italian fascist terror finally broke with the masses. Up to then, to a considerable extent it had been mass terror, now it was terror over the masses.
Similarly in Germany. Up to now it was the Storm troops who were armed and engaged in terror. The rank and file storm trooper really felt himself important and believed he was controlling the destiny of Germany and of Europe. With him lay the future of the world. This too has proved a chimera. When the Reichswehr was to be increased to 300,000 from 100,000 men, Hitler took great care to see to it that the storm troops did not enter the army. Over and above the S.A. (storm troops) Hitler sent his S.S. (special guards) to control them and to protect his interests. Instead of smashing the Stahlhelm, which had been the original demand of the storm troops, he incorporated them into the S.A. thus diluting the S.A. troops and weakening their “socialistic” ideas. Thus gradually Hitler was drawing the noose tight around his own former supporters and prepared to give them “the works". The clash with the storm troops was inevitable. The victory of Hitler was inevitable.
Repeatedly the Socialist and Communist Parties have played up the discontent of the storm troops with their masters and have prophesied that there would be rebellion and what not. It is with these fairy tales that the bureaucrats of both these parties feed the masses. Sipping their coffee in the cafes of Paris or in Moscow they “predict” revolution every so often in their desperate effort to hold their prestige. But if the organized labor movement was not victorious, how could the spontaneous mass rebellion be more so? If the communist Party gave up without a fight, will the disorganized workers now do better? If Hitler was not defeated when he was weak and was not yet in power, can he be when he is strongly entrenched for over a year in power and has immense resources at his command? If the communists ran away when the interests of the workers were at stake, would the workers fight when the interest of the brown shirt murderers and petty bourgeoisie scum are at stake?
These “heroes” who head the Communist and Socialist Parties and who ran away and left the workers to their fate, do they know what it means to live and fight under the Nazi terror? Do they know how much the masses have to suffer to rebuild their own illegal apparatus and clean out from their ranks the old fakers and traitors who have learned nothing and would still have hope in the Socialist and Communist internationals? It is easy in New York for Willi Muenzenberg to predict revolution, but the masses in Germany have only contempt for him. He has so destroyed the revolutionary movement that it will be some time before the remnants are really gathered together and organized in a new communist revolutionary movement under the banner of a Fourth International.
The fact is that the recent events in Germany have been in the nature of a “Second Hitler Revolution". The base of Hitler had become very much narrowed. He can no longer rely on his mass terror. The struggle for power now remains a struggle among the big propertized classes themselves, especially between the industrialists and the Junkers. The old liberal bourgeoisie has been wiped out. The fight between the Nationalist and Nazi parties ended in the victory of the Nazis, due to the superiority of the city over the country, due to the power of the industrialists, and their willingness to bribe the Junkers into acquiescence. Similarly was the fight between the Stahlhelm and the storm troops terminated by a compromise that took in the Stahlhelm, with its aristocratic traditions, into the Nazi front. But the fight still goes on and while Thysson and Schacht are the economic masters there will have to take place some compromise with the Junker aristocracy of Germany and some sharing of the power with them. The fight between Junker and Industrialist can and must be compromised.
After all, this was done in Italy. In 1919 the platform of Mussolini called for the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic. This he would not do. Yet, Hitler is relatively weaker than Mussolini and the Kaiser is stronger than was Victor Immanuel, despite the fact that the Italian King, unlike the Kaiser, had not abdicated the throne and fled the country. The industrialists need the Junkers. The German industrialists have never had political power before. They need the Junkers in the army and in the diplomatic corps, as their face and symbol of unity, as their staff of organizers. Besides, the Junkers control key parts of Germany, especially in the East. If war takes place in the East, and it can take place only in that direction, then these sections of the ruling class must be appeased, must be brought into the very ruling stratum of the state itself.
As we wrote in September, 1932, “It is after all the Germany of the Kaiser that remains the symbol of what was powerful and gloriously victorious. Under the Kaiser Germany was at the supreme point of its career. For every intellectual there was the opportunity of a position in the state apparatus or the staff of the growing concerns. For every business man there was the promise of the great success that German Imperialism held out to him. For every worker there was the sort of reforms of one part or another to seduce him into inactivity….
“The Nazis promise to bring back the old glory that was Deutschland’s. But the weak-chinned, Charlie Chaplin mustached hysterical Hitler cannot do this. For this role there is needed a Napoleon, a dynasty, a tradition, a name; much more so than the king is needed in Italy. And the Ex-Crown Prince is ready. Will he be the power that is needed, or will he be only another Napoleon the Little? This is another question. At any rate the German business men need the quiet authority, the military austerity, the organizing ability of the Royalists. And the Ex-Crown Prince stands ready.”
The explosion in Austria, the murder of Dollfuss, mass murderer himself, and the resultant Nazi rebellion brings into the most startling relief the relation of the inner to the outer politics of Germany and shows us the utter impossibility of the present situation.
One thing is clear, Austria can not remain as she is. She must either be reduced to a semi-colony of the victorious powers operating her through Italy, or become fused with Germany. In our opinion the might of Germany will prove superior to the policy of Italy or of the others.
The wiping out of Dollfuss is the wiping out of the bonapartist regime which he symbolized. With the destruction of the socialists and workers organization there remains now only the fascist groupings which are divided into two antagonistic sections: The Heimwehr and the Austrian Nazis. Hovering above them is the regular army. Crushed beneath them is the proletariat. The failure of the Nazi rebellion is another indication of the difficulty of winning a revolt where the army is against not with you. And in this case the Nazis had to fight without the proletariat who had been defeated previously.
The defeat of the Nazis raises the question whether Hitler did not want this defeat. Already for some time he had formally separated the Austrian from the German Nazis and his actions in removing certain Germans from Austria, in closing the border at critical moments and in refusing to allow the Austrian legion to fight may bespeak a certain fear of the storm troop rank and file. This much is clear: The industrialists have far less control in Austria then in Germany. Indeed they control only through Germany. The storm troops victorious in Austria would have meant the petty bourgeoisie armed and in power, at precisely the moment when they were being shot in Germany—a dangerous coincidence. Can it be, then, that Hitler, knowing Austria must fall into Germany’s lap, deliberately allowed the Austrian storm troops to be shot down so as to reach the same conclusions through negotiations and compromise rather than through force. After all the Austrian Nazis did accomplish their first aim—the destruction of the Dollfuss regime. It is questionable whether Hitler wanted them to go beyond this merely negative task and the further task of putting just so much pressure on the government as to force its fusion with the German rulers.
The austrian affair came at the proper moment for Hitler. It again gave the petty bourgeoisie masses the hope that they were going to come up on top and that they were really playing a role in history. Besides, it took attention away from internal difficulties to external fields of conquest. Should Austria fall into Hitler’s lap, it will be a big day for German Fascism.
However, the victory of the Heimwehr is a very temporary one. It is a victory of the country over the city; it was accomplished with the aid of a hated foreign power; it will run into a blind alley from which there can be no emergence save compromise with the Hitler regime. What is the future of Austria without Germany? Tied together by race and history and by economic necessity, Austria and Germany can be kept apart only by the most stringent use of force. And this alone cannot do the job. The Austrians will not allow themselves forever to be buffeted about like a football in a contest between this or that imperialist power. They will be forced to choose. The Austrian property holders will choose Germany.
What is Italy’s interest in Austria? Merely a negative one. To prevent Germany from growing strong in a southern direction; to prevent Austria from improving in any direction. To keep Austria constantly dependent upon itself and its allies, this is Italy’s scheme, but a lost one. To work with Austria and Hungary and Rumania so as to establish a great influence in Central Europe and to outflank Jugo-Slovia and defeat France interests, this is the scheme of Mussolini. But how can Austria be kept permanently weak? For this the bonapartism of Dollfuss was the best Italian weapon for it meant Austrian capitalist unity rested only on a deadlock of forces. But precisely this regime could not last very long. It had to fall. It has fallen. Will the Austrian Heinwehr fascists long permit themselves to exist without perspective or future, merely as a tool of Italy?
It is clear that this cannot be. The Austrian fascists therefore must turn to some way out. The way out tends to be the monarchy—the restoration of the Hapsburgs can mean only the beginning of the reconstitution of the Austro-Hungarian empire, or an attempt in that direction. The Hungarian impoverished aristocracy is quite willing for that alliance. They can begin again their attacks on Czech-Slovakia and Jugo-Slavia, particularly the latter. To France and to Czecho-Slovakia, much as they hate to see the end of the dependence of Austria, much as they hate to see Italian interference, yet it is better for them that Germany be defeated and the Hapsburgs rise to power again than that Austria be with Germany. For the fusion of Austria with Germany means a greater Germany of 80,000,000 people, a terrible menace to the entire French continental system. Czecho-Slovakia would then be surrounded on three sides and Poland on two. A terrific wedge would be laid down in middle Europe and Jugo-Slavia brought within its influence, and from thence down into Turkey.
On the other hand the rise of the Hapsburgs is an intolerable situation for Jugo-Slavia. It can only result in a Danubian alliance against her and the rise of a stronger power on the north that together with Italy can snuff out her existence. For her the whole value of the Versailles Treaty thus will come to an end. Indeed, the events in Austria have given the final death blow to the whole system of Versailles. Thus Jugo-Slavia would consider it far better to have a Nazi Austria than a Hapsburg one, and on account would tolerate the invasion by the Italian forces into Austria itself. Whatever the outcome the death of Dollfuss has split the French imperialist system wide open on the European continent.
The question before the Austrian bourgeoisie and ruling class is, which is better to their interests, fusion with Germany or “Independence” through the Hapsburgs. But Austria cannot live with a hostile Germany. Day by day the influence of the Nazis must grow stronger. Let us remember that the socialistic workers are deadly enemies of the Heimwehr who shot them down. Let us remember that the industrial might of Germany is far greater than that of the bribes of Italy. And thus, if we remain realistic, we must see that in spite of the defeat of the Austrian Nazis, in reality they have won their point. No government can last without the Nazis in Austria. Either fusion with Germany or what is really the same thing: The Nazis in the government, or perpetual rebellion, perpetual tumult and chaos.
But if the Nazis are to win Austria they must make some sort of concession to the aristocratic agrarian elements within Austria. In a preceding article in the Class Struggle (Vol. 4 No. 3) we have already pointed out that “the swallowing of Austria by Germany cannot proceed without some struggles". The question here is what is the relation between the agrarian aristocrats of Germany and those of Austria. Do the Hapsburgs and Hohenzollerns work together or against each other?
If Austria and Germany unite, it cannot be under the Hapsburgs. This would be to make the tail wag the dog. It can only be under the rule of whoever rules Germany. It is this that forces the Junkers of Germany to support the Nazi forces in their attack against their brother aristocrats in Austria. On the other hand, the return of the Hohenzollerens in Germany will do much to restore the old power of the Austrian aristocracy. We have already seen that the industrialists would welcome, under some circumstances, the return of the Monarchy. They would be willing to make some concessions to have the Kaiser return, provided, of course, it would be under the hegemony of the industrial and financial big capital of Germany. The Kaiser cannot be restored to his old role but he can still play a considerable role. The restoration of the German Kaiser can be precisely that force which can fuse all the propertied classes together both in Germany and Austria and will pave the way for the inevitable imperialist war towards the East.
It is interesting indeed to revisit a city one knew long ago, especially when that city is one which was the scene of such a profound and all embracing labor drama as the Passaic strike. One gets for a moment an entirely erroneous impression that time stands still, as the old streets, the mills, the old faces reappear scarcely changed. A few wrinkles in the foreheads of the old fighters, the children we use to feed in the soup kitchens of the women’s Councils coming in to the headquarters now as members of this or that adult organization. But these are trivial things.
The most striking symbol of the change of eight years is a sign on a prominent window on Main Avenue, in the very heart of the town, just a few doors from where the strike headquarters was in 1926: “Khaki Shirts of America; U.S. Fascist". Here, not so long ago, an effort was made to rally the unemployed and many italian workers came around. But the only program was to send a telegram to Roosevelt about the C.W.A. jobs, and since nothing was accomplished and no organization built, the workers fell away. Some of these Italian workers are now joining the Workers Unemployed Union. Fascism is springing up too in another section of the city, and meetings of several hundreds have been held among the Germans in Neubauer’s Hall. A fertile ground for the fascist seed is the German population which from the beginning was favored by the German bosses of the mills, getting all the best jobs in the mill and the steady jobs in time of depression. It was this section that furnished most of the scabs in 1928, as well as some good fighters. But, Julius Forstmann, so we are told, has given orders that anyone employed in his mills joining the Fascist ranks is to be immediately thrown out of his job, and thirty odd have already been fired. Forstmann anti Fascist? No, but the firms handling his cloth are composed of Jews, and you know how business is these days.
In the days of the strike, there were language societies around which the workers flocked, lodged then for the most part in plain wooden houses. Now the Polish national Home, the Russian National Home, have fledged out in magnificent big brick buildings, equipped inside with every possible convenience—pool rooms, bars, lounging rooms, dance halls, etc. And in this change a certain evolution—far from a progressive one, of the working population stands out. Small business men and foremen form the core of those language societies and support them financially. The workers join to have support, to get a job, for protection, in other words. Some years ago, the Communists had fractions in these groups powerful enough to sway the policy but such fractions have now disappeared, and the middle class red-baiting patriotic elements and the church are now in full control. Thus the language society, like the American fraternal orders, becomes a most efficient vehicle of class collaboration.
The dingy streets, the squalid tenements, are unchanged. Passaic is a typical drab mill-town, typical especially of the life of the foreign born in America, who came here two or three decades ago with signs on their chests “Botany”, “Gera” and were herded from New York out to spend their lives working in those mills. It has not changed, this worker’s life in which the mill, the church, the bedroom, forced a monotonous triangle. But now over all hovers the crisis, the unemployment, like a great crushing weight. The woolen mills are working from 10 to 20% of capacity on a stagger system. A few favorites only work steadily and the majority of the workers get two or three days work in the month. The rubber mills are considerably more active, but they also are not up to capacity, nor can they absorb more than a small fraction of the unemployed. The parks are crowded with the permanently unemployed who have degenerated into chronic card players. The youth in the factories scoff at a union leaflet, or hang around the street corners, as everywhere. Since the YCL and the YPSL have failed to take any impression on them for whose mill will they become grist?
The relief in New Jersey is on a disgracefully low level. The food ticket system prevails with all its humiliations and inconveniences. The amount averages around a dollar per person in a family. Rents are paid when an eviction takes place and the family is shoved around from pillar to post finding new quarters. Under nourishment and sickness are rife. On top of this the State N.R. A. instituted a work relief system whereby the head of the family receiving the food ticket is called out to work on city projects for a few days or a week per month until he has worked out the amount of the relief received. Fifty cents of his “earnings” per hour go to pay off the relief, and in addition he is handed the magnificent cash “bonus” of 10 cents an hour! No wonder, when the Workers Unemployed Union, with Sam Fisher as organizer, called a few meetings for the project workers, the response was almost 100% and a strike vote was readily taken. The strike cleaned out the projects and the workers rallied in large numbers to our headquarters.
The strikes against the work relief have been general throughout New Jersey. In Passaic and Paterson they were called by the Workers Unemployed Union, but in most sections they were spontaneous walk-outs which local conservative elements were able to get control. Nevertheless, they have been so effective that the State has decided to go on cash relief (the main demand of the strikers) although the actual putting into effect of this measure was held up for a time.
The role of the Communist Party in the situation has been such that certainly the ruling class and their agents must have sat back and laughed, and congratulated themselves that hired agent provocateurs have become superfluous in the workers’ movement with these people around. In Passaic the Unemployment council had been, as everywhere else, dead, after a feeble spurt of activity when the CWA was ended. The strike in Passaic was, as we have said, called and organized by the Workers Unemployed Union (affiliated with the Passaic Valley Organization Committee) and the organizer, Sam Fisher, was a member of the Communist League of Struggle. Seeing an efficient organization being built up, the Stalinists enter upon their usual role. Herbert Benjamin (he of the aeroplane “hunger” flight to Washington a couple of years ago) swoops down upon Passaic armed with a squad of “organizers” and bushels of leaflets. Meetings are called, members of the Unemployment Council take the floor in the strike meetings of the W.U.U. and call upon the workers to leave their organization and to come down to “Third Street” (The Unemployment Council). Counter demands, much lower than those of the W.U.U. are set up. The project strikers had called for, among other things, cash wages of 60 cents an hour for project work (in addition to relief on a cash basis) and union wages for skilled work. But those great radicals, the Staliniests, finding these demands no doubt too “revolutionary” came out demanding the great wage of 25 cents an hour! Picture it, Communists call upon workers to strike for 25 cents an hour! Does this not make a caricature of any attempt at a fight against Fascism or of giving the workers a conception of struggling for power?
In the meantime, at the meetings called by the Unemployment Council, floods of slander and vicious personal attacks were poured forth. Notwithstanding the unprecedented attacks, the W.U.U.in Passaic has been able to gather a good group of militants around itself and is consolidating its organization by the formation of block committees.
In Paterson, now for almost a year, the Communist League of Struggle has dug in and during the winter months regular lectures, forums, classes have been held and some progress made. Our influence has some effect among the union members but the chief work has been among the unemployed. With the termination of the C.W.A. work at the end of March, great activity among the unemployed was started. it was decided to send a committee of 25 to see the Mayor and to present to him the demands of the C.W.A. and Unemployed Workers. The spokesman of the delegation was Henry Weser who presented the following resolution:
“We make the following demands upon the City Administration of Paterson:
a) The Mayor must immediately call a special emergency session of the City Council and municipal officers solely to consider what is to be done to aid the unemployed workers. At this meeting the C.W.A. and Unemployed workers Organization will have its representatives and spokesmen to present our point of view and our demands.
b) All city funds are to be allotted to meet the needs of the unemployed, first of all. Each unemployed worker to receive a weekly minimum of $15 in cash relief.
c) A special fund must be raised by utilizing all the power of the city to tax and assess the wealthy property holders of the city and county.
d) A moratorium should be declared on all debts under $500.
e) No further evictions of unemployed must take place in Paterson. Further rent collecting from the unemployed to be disallowed.
f) Every effort must be made to reduce the tax burden thrown on the poor by the Public Utilities Corporations. Especially must the very high electric rates, the highest in the entire country be reduced and their collections disallowed.
g) All the distribution of relief agencies must be handled by the organized labor movement and unemployed organizations of the city.
“The C.W.A. and Unemployed Workers Organization of Passaic County further calls upon the City Administration to protest against the cutdown of the C.W.A. work, to protest against the cut in pay being given, to raise its voice in demand for adequate unemployment insurance in cash by the government to the end that no worker should receive less than a minimum of $15 a week for no more than a 30 hour week work, skilled workers to get prevailing rates of pay.”
However, the Communist party, pursuing the same tactics as in Passaic was able to disrupt our influence to some extent and by a maneuver of enlarging the executive, after the project workers came on strike, and by dint of joining hands with the most backward and conservative element among the workers, the Stalinists have managed to get control of the executive of the strikers. But they have done this at the cost of driving away most of the following of the strike. At a recent conference called by the party, the Stalinists actually called for relief of four dollars a week! Further they “demanded” work of “at least 30 hours a week” and when some worker complained that this would not be enough for him to take care of his family at the prevailing rates, the Party declared that in special cases they would fight for 40 hours work! This is the “revolutionary"Communist Party!
In Paterson a really outstanding achievement is the formation of the Negro Chamber of labor. Within the few months since its organization it has been able to free a young Negro worker, Charles Grant, from a prison term which threatened him on a frame up charge of assaulting an officer. under the leadership of Comrade Frank Griffin, an old time Negro C.P. member, who is in our ranks. This Negro group, unique in its kind, is making steady progress. Our next issue will see a full report on this phase of our work.
THE BREAKING UP OF THE SOCIALIST PARTY
The Detroit Convention of the Socialist Party marked a milestone in that party’s history. There formally began a sharp battle that far from being settled, has spread throughout the party, since the principle questions of dispute have now been brought before the membership in a referendum. The crisis in the socialist Party is an accurate reflection of the crisis in the entire Socialist International, now being embalmed by fascism.
Fascism has destroyed the Socialist Parties of Europe as effective organizations, but Socialism has, in fact, paved the way for Fascism. Germany, Austria, France, Spain, as did Russia in the past, all have shown the bankruptcy and collapse of the Socialist International.
In Germany there existed the strongest Socialist Party of all, yet it is precisely in Germany that the greatest degeneration took place. Starting in 1918 with the cry that Socialism could come in our time (but it had to be “organized socialism”, not the “anarchist socialism” of the Bolsheviks under Lenin and Trotsky) by 1925, the Socialist Party was declaring that capitalism was too stabilized for socialism to start right away, but the main struggle had to be to keep the social reforms won in 1918-1919, reforms that had been granted due to the pressure of the masses who were moving towards revolution. By 1932 the Socialist Party had retreated to the position that the main fight was to keep the Republic even though the social reforms would have to go. And with that, the Socialist Party of Germany urged the masses to vote for Hindenburg “to keep out Hitler” and to save the Republic.
In 1918 the “Left Socialists” could summarize their policy as rapid extension of reform until reform becomes a Socialism, or in other words, revolution through reform. In 1925 this had become save the reform and leave the revolution, or reform versus revolution. And by this change the “Left Socialists” showed they were only another variety of the “right Socialists” with whom, by this time, they had fused and who had always taken that position. By 1933, the Socialist Party had degenerated into a mere Radical Party in the European sense, that is, a party whose main aim was the maintenance of a bourgeois republic and to whom reform was a very secondary matter. Thus the Socialist Party became an anti reform party, giving up the entire struggle for social reform, indeed, allowing the fascist to become the “reform” party.
As a matter of fact, the Socialist International had really died in 1914, when it took a nationalist chauvinist position during the war. What has happened is that today the corpse has begun to stink. In those days the Socialist International proved itself dead as a revolutionary force, when it could make its coalitions with the bourgeoisie and take power for the capitalists. Many cushy jobs and fine positions were open to the careerist socialists as a reward for their shooting down of the revolutionary masses. In Germany this was especially clear, and the German Republic was not the result of a socialist revolution, but a result of the Socialist Party shooting down the revolution.
If the Socialist Party died in 1914 as a revolutionary force, it died in 1933 as even a bourgeois force. Now capitalism has no more use for them, for it cannot grant any reforms and the time has come to break up all workers organizations. Capitalism, has then, so to speak, declared war upon the Socialists. Not that the Socialists wanted the war. It was the capitalists that have opened fire. Hence the crisis in the Socialist International, hence the indignation of the Socialists, hence their revolutionary phrases. The capitalists have dismissed them, have forced them to give up their jobs and privileged positions. They have lost their power to sell out. They are no longer needed as the stool-pigeons and murderers of the workers. Hence the tears, hence the “crisis” in the International.
Having lost their pay and their ability to betray, the Socialist bureaucracy have become “oppositionists". However, they will not be able to beat history. So far as those workers go, who were caught in the illusions of the Socialist Parties, they have lost these illusions. The smashing of the Socialist Parties will cause these workers to wake up. Whole sections of them will be forced to the left, towards Communism.
The events in Austria have only accentuated this process. The Socialist Party in Germany has never been able to explain how it was that in all the time that they were in power they never armed the masses, they never tried to dismiss the reactionaries from the Reichswehr but kept the same Junker officers in charge of the army. Similarly, the Socialist Party officials can never explain why they conducted the kind of criminal “defense” they did in Austria. How they “defended” themselves by shooting from the bedrooms of their cooperatives. How they were all caught “surprised” and no real plans were laid to meet the situation that each worker knew was forthcoming.
The fact is that the Socialists have been smashed in all Europe. And with this there comes an end of an entire era, the end of reform. It signifies that capitalism has reached such a period of decay that it is no longer able even to have reform. If in the old days, revolution could be bribed off by reform, this is no longer true, since capitalism has no longer the strength to grant large scale reforms. The spiral of capitalism is going downward, the destructive forces are outweighing the constructive ones. Today the fight for reform must telescope with the struggle for revolution. It is only by revolution that the reform can be obtained. Reform and revolution have become one dialectical process, and if we, the Internationalist Communists, do not abandon democratic slogans, if we do not abandon minimum demands, it is because we know that the breakdown of fascism and the reintroduction of social reforms can only be a transition point to make the revolution permanent by the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The present conflict in the Socialist Party is not the first of its kind. In 1917, with the Russian Revolution and the entrance of the U.S. into the world war, there arose within the Socialist Party a left wing that was moving towards Communism and raised the same issues as the present left wing does. By 1919 this left wing was expended from the Socialist Party and became the Communist Party and Communist Labor Party. In competition with the Communists, the Socialist Party took on a very “Bad” aspect. Despite the many expulsions, the mass of Socialist members demanded action. The Socialist Party even considered affiliation to the Communist International. They were willing to accept the Dictatorship of the Proletariat (although they wanted to interpret it in the “Hillquit manner”, namely, that only after the workers are in the majority in office through the ballot, and not through insurrection, should they establish a workers dictatorship) and 19 of the 21 points laid down to them by Lenin and Trotsky. Two of them, ("only two") however, they were not willing to accept—exactly those two which involved the right of an international center to exact discipline over its national sections. Not to be disciplined by the international center was another way of saying that they wanted to “accept” the Communist International in words but be free to stab it in the back in fact: That the Socialist Party did not want genuine internationalism, but that Hillquit and company were only maneuvering against their own real left wingers here at home.
With the end of the first revolutionary wave in 1923, the Socialist Party rapidly degenerated further and further. They came out for a Farmer-Labor Party and were willing to liquidate their own organization to get it. They took out the words “class struggle” from their documents. ("What’s in a name, Comrades?") They became the mere handmaidens for the A.F.L. bureaucracy helping them everywhere to sell out the workers. But they lost their foreign born members to a very great extent, and with them, most of the unskilled workers who at one time had become attached to the Socialist Party. In their stead the Socialist Party became filled with the college boy, American-face type members of the League for Industrial Democracy who were crying for “justice” and the right kind of “ethics” and who like sheep followed the shepherd, Norman Thomas, into the fold.
The rise of fascism in Europe and the terrible crisis in the U.S. since 1929 has forced a change in the Socialist Party. The A.F.L. bureaucracy was having a more difficult time of it, the unions were withering away, the treasuries disappearing, salaries were not being paid, etc.. The intellectuals and American college boys who had joined the Socialist Party at first “to do good” now found themselves hungry. They became more serious as they grew more impoverished. They discovered their careers were no longer being “sacrificed” because they no longer had any careers to lose. These elements, therefore, began to move to the “left” and this tendency was accelerated by the death of Hillquit removing the principal leader of the Socialist Party from the scene and sharpening all centrifugal tendencies.
At the same time, the new situation that arose with the NRA could only hasten the inevitable clash within the Socialist Party. The NRA gave an enormous impetus to the A.F.L. bureaucracy, allowing them to recover part of their lost ground and to assume their old arrogance. On the other hand the masses themselves were moving to the left, and precisely at a time when all other forces, like the Communist Party, were showing their own incompetence and were failing to take advantage of the situation. It is no wonder, then that the Detroit Convention should have shown such conflicting forces as to shatter the unity of the Socialist Party.
The Detroit Convention exposed six groups fighting for the leadership. Three of them, the Jewish Daily Forwards clique, the Milwaukee Leader crowd, and the New Leader-Rand School outfit all belonged to the right wing. Each of these groups, however, had their own bureaucratic interests to carry out, and while they united on basic points against the “left”, they were not able at all times to present a solid front.
In between the “right” and the so-called “left” was the Norman Thomas, “old intellectualist” crowd of well doers of the L.I.D. They were really declassed liberals who want to do good and who sway according to the winds of the moment in trying to be “fair” and to do the “right thing". Pushed by the uprooted intellectuals and panic stricken elements within the Socialist Party, hated as they were by the “rights”, the Norman Thomas group occupied a “center” position.
To the “left” were the “Militants” (1934 variety, the 1933 variety, headed by such as McAlistor Coleman and Paul Blanshard having collapsed, due to Blanshard going to LaGuardia and the drunken irresponsible conduct of Coleman) and the new group the “Revolutionary Policy Committee". Between those two groups there were not such great differences that they could not unite. They differed as to the regions where they were influential, the type of groups around them, their standing in the party, their emphasis on this or that point of the program, viz., centralization of organization, friendliness to Russia, friendliness to the Lovestone group, etc. This whole left wing was exceedingly weak.
The issues of the fight took place over the policy of the Socialist Party on the N.R.A., on the trade unions, on the International Socialist Bureau, and on organization and a Declaration of Principles. The “left” resolution on the N.R.A. that the N.R.A. contained the germs of fascism, was carried although the “right” amended it to take out the sting directed against the union officials. On the trade union resolution, the “right” wing won the point that there must be no attack on the officials of the A.F.L. although there were inserted the points of the “left” that it is the job of the Socialists to organize the unorganized and it is not always necessary to turn them over to the AFL although they were not in favor of dual unionism. In regard to criticizing the International Bureau, the “left” was soundly defeated, but on the Declaration of Principles, it was the “left” that won and combined with the Norman Thomas group it was the “left” that took over the new national executive committee.
The new Declaration of Principles is far from a genuine revolutionary document. It declares that there are more ways than one for the workers to take power. They are for democracy, until democracy collapses. Then, when and if democracy collapses, the Socialists would show them. If war came, if fascism came, then the Socialists would use all means to exterminate them and establish the rule of the workers. All this could not be decided now but later at the time of the collapse, if and when, it came. However, it was clear that democracy was defective and the Socialist Party should defend those who pointed out this and warned the workers of the forthcoming events.
It is not our purpose in this article to make an analysis of the wishy-washy centrism of the Declaration of Principles, its vacillating and petty bourgeois character. What we do have to emphasize is that this declaration, which compared with the immediately preceding position of the Socialist Party is such a step forward but compared to the 1919 stage so backward,. Nevertheless it has forced the issue of reform or revolution, in one way or another, into the Socialist Party. This issue will split the Socialist Party.
The new left wing of the Socialist Party which is in close connection with the Norman Thomas group and now controls the executive of the Socialist Party is not a genuine revolutionary outfit. It may contain some elements who are really moving to the left, and with these, it is our duty to converse fraternally, to work with them and to bring them closer to us than before. But the leadership of this left wing group is rather of the de-classed “New Deal” variety. What they really want is a “New Deal” Socialisms. In that respect certain tendencies to capitulation to fascism can be noticed. The new executive has eliminated the Jews entirely. It has replaced them partly with new members from the West. The leaders of the left wing compose a sort of “brain trust” with “Professor Krueger” and “Professor Albert S. Coolidge” etc. Those are not reliable elements. They are lost souls who can jump from one position to another and can lead the proletariat only into the swamp where these positions are placed.
The fight in Detroit is only the beginning of the breakup of the Socialist Party. The factional fighting has begun. It is being carried to the entire membership through the referendum. Two alternatives are here possible. The first alternative is that the right wing will win the party referendum. Should this occur then there would be no split, although some members might drop out or some get expelled. For generally the left wing is too cowardly to intensify the factional fighting and split the party. The essence of these conciliators is to be harsh against the Communists but very soft to the right wing with whom they have been joined for so many years and whom they believe they can “reform".
An entirely different situation will present itself should the left wing win the day. If the left wing allows the Thomas policy to be carried out, it will not at all be a genuine left wing, for the line of Thomas is to soften down anti-unions to harmonize everything, and to weaken all forms of the class struggle. Should, however, the left wing go forward, should it merely demand, for example, that the right wing obey the discipline of the party and follow the new line, should the left wing begin to take over the newspapers of the party, then there must result a split. It is inconceivable that the wealthy bureaucracy of the Jewish Daily Forward or the Milwaukee Leader will allow its jobs to be taken away without splitting.
Should the right wing split, it will be followed by the chief officials and trained functionaries of the party, the press and Rand School apparatus and the trade union contacts. In that case the more likely alternative is that this group will concentrate on building up a “Labor Party". They will become the political guide for the A.F.L. They will swing even still further to the right, and lose all right to call themselves even “Socialists".
On the other hand, what will happen to the Left? Now in charge of the party and left to themselves, they would be ground to pieces. If they meant business, the elements that call themselves “left” would have to fight first of all against Norman Thomas and remove him from influence, and then against their own petty bourgeois leaders (Krueger et al) . This can be done only through one convulsion after another, which will shake the heterogenesis mass left in the Socialist Party, to its foundation, and will cause layer after layer to drop out. The “New Deal” Socialist Party can only become like the I.L.P. of Great Britain, lost in the woods. It will not know where to turn. If it genuinely goes along the road of the class struggle, it will have to become more and more Communist and eventually find itself in the ranks of Communism.
In the light of this perspective, what should be the attitude of the Communists? First of all, and above all, we should follow the advice of Cannons and Gitlows in dealing with the present centrists, to have no illusions concerning them, not to blur differences, but to state exactly what is. Precisely because sections of them must come to Communism, Communist groups must thoroughly expose the enormous differences between reform and revolution, between Socialism and Communism as programs and policies of action.
It has been positively disgusting to see the fawning and sycophanting attitude of the Lovestones and Cannons and Gitlows around these elements of the Socialists. The attitude of these groups show that they are becoming tired of the struggle, they would like to rest their weary heads on the bosom of some two-and-a-half International where all the opportunists could cease from strife.
On the other hand, we cannot agree with the sterile policy of the Stalinists to whom everyone not in the C.P. must be considered fascist or social fascist. It is our duty to help the real left ward moving Socialists to reach their goal,—revolutionary struggle. We must separate the honest"left” from the “cheats and deceivers” who only put on a “left” covering and we must mercilessly expose the former. While pointing out the hopelessness of centrism generally, yet in every possible way we must try to win over the centrist members to us, through patient persuasion, through a common united front work, through personal example. This is the road that the Communist League of Struggle intends to take in building up a new Communist International.
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THE GOVERNMENT RAIDS SUBSCRIBERS
Repression of all sorts is on the order of the day as the working class fights with increased militancy and consciousness and the employing class swings towards fascism. We hear now of persecutions conducted in recent months against the readers of the Anarchist periodical “Man". These attacks are conducted in an entirely underground manner. Federal government “agents approach subscribers to the paper or people who have sent money orders for the support of “Man!” with a view of intimidating then finding out whether they are foreign born who can be deported, etc., and otherwise quietly hounding them.
These attacks emphasize the point the Class Struggle has made from the beginning, the necessity of the working class press protecting its subscribers. We do no know whether “Man!” has followed the extraordinary precedant in the American movement of handing over lists of names and addresses of subscribers to the Federal Government in order to obtain the second class mailing privileges. It was for refusing to do this that the Class Struggle was denied these mailing privileges two years ago.
At that time, all the other Communist groups derided us for our warnings. Now our worst fears have come true. It is to be noticed that the government does not arrest the editor, nor stop the paper but simply quietly checks up on all the subscribers. Thus the revolutionary paper becomes a decoy duck for the government forces bringing the game right into the hands of the hunters.
What will the Cannon group and the Lovestone group say now? Are they still going to go ahead and turn over every week the names and addresses of their subscribers to the U.S. Government? Isn’t it about time that the working class stopped their pleasant little game? Are not the terror in San Francisco, the arrests in Canada, the arrest of Muste, Cannon, Shachtman, and others enough warnings that a new turn must be taken in the Communist movement! Put an end to the criminal amateurishness of the so called revolutionary leaders! Put an end to the turning over of the names and addresses of the subscribers of working class revolutionary papers to the government forces!